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Cabbage Patch Dreams

July 26, 2011

My daughter owns a Cabbage Patch Kid, the result of an emotional impulse purchase on the last shopping day before Christmas.  Tragically, Ashanti Marie was loved for all of forty-three minutes before being pushed aside for the flavor-of-the-month, a giant stuffed polar bear named Polar Bear.  With that, my heart promptly broke in two. 

This led me to realize – the significance of the sacred treasure that is the Cabbage Patch Kid is completely lost on children today.  Kids of now have no appreciation for those past kids who went before them.  Do they not know of the brave parents and grandparents who once fought (gulp – even died?) to ensure their pint-sized loved ones would not have to suffer without one?    

The problem was, in 1983, the supply of dolls was falling far, far short of consumer demand.  Every week a different rumor swept through the halls of Seedling Mile Elementary.  “There are Cabbage Patch Kids at the Toys & Hobbies store!”  Consequently parents would beeline over there to find not a one.  Not even a baldie to be had.  Then, “Cabbage Patch Kids are at Sears!” and “At the Hinky Dinky grocery store!”  I once heard they were giving them away at a shoe store.  Yes, free with the purchase of a pair of Hushpuppies.       

I was certain on Christmas my parents had come through for me.  After performing complicated mathematical equations, I determined one present under the tree fit the exact dimensions of a box containing a Cabbage Patch Kid.  I even swore I heard a crinkle sound when I poked at one side, signifying the plastic window where my precious one’s eyes would meet with mine for the first time. 

On Christmas morning, I saved that present for last.  I wanted to finish the holiday off with a bang.  I unwrapped the present slowly, each rip of the paper bringing me closer to the dreams I’d held onto for so many months.  I imagined her kicking back in my room with Holly Hobby and the gang, flying copilot with me to library storytime, riding on the handlebars of my banana-seat bike (too bad I didn’t have a bicycle basket). 

Instead (cue the record scratching) the last tear of paper left me staring at a flowered wicker bicycle basket.  My memory fades from there.  Too painful to remember.  At worst, I might’ve buried myself in the communal wrapping paper heap and tantrummed myself into a coma.  At best, I might’ve forcibly smiled and admitted that, yes, I’d always hoped someday I’d have the means to transport a fleet of orphaned kittens. 

You did not fool me for a second, Penny Pumpkin Doll!

I grew to become quite bitter, especially upon hearing of others’ good fortune.  One day a friend playing at my house was suddenly called home by her mom.  Something about “great news” and “it might be a Cabbage Patch Kid so you better come see.”  She grabbed her bike and in about five seconds was ready to rocket across our cul-de-sac.  In seeing her in such a fevered state of excitement, I decided to leave her with some grand parting words.  This started off something like, “There is no way you’re getting a Cabbage Patch doll.”  And from there I continued to snuff out every bit of joy from her heart.  First I hypothesized it was instead one of those cheap, knock-off Flower Garden Kids.  Then I assured her, if there was any chance it was a genuine Cabbage Patch Kid, it was surely used.  “Yep, bet she bought it at a garage sale.”  Which led to, “Its original clothes will be switched out with a homemade Raggedy Ann dress.” And the worst, “I bet you a million bucks one of its eyes is scratched off.”       

Finally, my luck turned around.  A legitimate news flash!  Cabbage Patch Kids at Wheelers!  (Wheelers was a tire store – though they weren’t giving them away with the purchase of a tire, as it turned out.)  My dad, who never before cared one iota about providing his kids with the newest flim-flam-thing-a-ma-jig, decided in the wee hours of a Saturday morning to check it out.  The doors were to open at eight o’clock and my dad arrived at seven.  By then (I would later learn) the line of manic parents was already twisting across the parking lot.  Like something of a back alley drug deal, people were allowed in one at a time to a warehouse of shelved dolls.  Afterwards, they were blindfolded and driven out to a desolate cornfield where they were left to hitch their way home.  (Okay, I can’t be certain on that last part.  Perhaps I just assumed this occurred.)  When my dad finally made it to the backroom, all that were left were the least desired.  That’s right, the baldies.  Just the same, he snagged me Gil Evan.  Bald and freckled to boot. 

I took one look at Gil Evan’s yarn-less plastic head, his mobster-esque face (a cross between Curly from the Three Stooges and Karl Rove) and I burst into tears.  My dad kindly offered to take him back the following week.  But every so often that day, I’d make it down the stairs from my bedroom to peek into the Wheelers bag.  Little by little, Gil Evan worked his way into my heart.  By Sunday afternoon, everything changed.  I knew he was mine.  If I could write this scene for a movie that would play out on the Lifetime channel, it would go something like this.  First the dramatic music breaks in as I run down a long hallway.  Then I throw open an office door and I slam my fist down on the desk of the social worker and say, “No, ma’am, he is not going anywhere with you.  He’s going to live with us – where he belongs!  (Voice breaking.)  This is the only family he’s ever known!”   

As the years passed, Gil Evan was followed by Tilda Bambi.  Who was followed by Jervis Craig.  Who was followed by Herencia Grizelda (every infinite combination of American names was depleted by 1985).  I always wanted a big family.

***

You’d think that’d be the end of my story, all of my Cabbage Patch dreams finally fulfilled.  But if you thought that, you must believe that Cabbage Patch Kids were simply dolls.  Ha.  Are you kidding?  People beating themselves up for a doll?  No, this was a religion, one applied to every part of my life.  Eating.  Drinking.  Sleeping.  Even dancing.  To a song that went something like, “Each night in my Cabbage Patch dreams…” And another that went “Cabbages, cabbages – yum-yum-yum.  Cabbages, cabbages – give me some!”   I am not joking.  My music class performed a Cabbage Patch play in fourth grade.  Yeah, in fourth grade that was probably too much.  My music teacher Mrs. Johnson was a bit out of touch in her later years. 

I once somehow convinced my Kix-is-the-closest-you’ll-ever-get-to-Sugar-Smacks mom to buy me Cabbage Patch Kid cereal.  I’m sure this purchase followed one highly animated grocery aisle plea bargain for the ages.  No doubt, one that was seeping with heartfelt promises to start anew.  Keep my Barbies picked-up, help set the table, drink all my milk, no more chewing entire packages of Hubba Bubba gum behind my bed, and so on.  Yes, a speech that would’ve made John Edwards weep with envy. 

About that cereal:  1.) It boasted no marshmallows.  2.) It contained no fruit-flavored, purple-colored anything and even featured the daily recommended allowance of riboflavin.  3.) It did not resemble miniature cookies, and 4.) It did not include special 3-D glasses or a mail-in rebate for a transistor radio.  5.) It did, however, contain puffed corn balls shaped like Cabbage Patch Kid heads.  Cha-ching! 

If my memory serves me correctly, the two to three spoonfuls I managed to work down my throat felt something like shot-gunning a jar of rancid cornmeal.  It was that good.  Then the full box sat on the shelf of our kitchen pantry for many months as a visible reminder to my mom of why eight year olds should not serve as household decision-makers.  Although, never mind the fact that I was an eight year old parent now.  With four hungry mouths to feed.

***

Fun facts on Cabbage Patch Kids, found online here:

  • The Social Security Administration alerted state agencies to be on the lookout for Cabbage Patch Kids who were applying for welfare!
  • According to Coleco, 20% of the dolls were purchased by boys.
  • At the height of the ’83 Christmas season, demand outstripped supply by so much that a postman named Edward Pennington of Kansas City went to London just to get his daughter Leana one.
  • The New York Times ran an article about a department store Santa named Vincent Berger who regularly explained the economic concept of supply versus demand to disappointed (and probably bewildered) kids.
  • The owner of at least one department store hired an armored car to deliver the Kids and discourage the kind of disturbances seen elsewhere.
  • The demand that Christmas also led Coleco to pull its TV advertising as it was overselling the product!
  • Stores ran lotteries among those on waiting lists for the dolls.
  • A sarcastic radio deejay – most likely recalling the WKRP “turkey” episode – announced during the Christmas ’83 hysteria that they would be dropping the dolls from an airplane at a local stadium and to make sure to head down there with a baseball glove and a credit card.
  • There was another shortage during Christmas ’84 that left individual stores with thousands of customers on waiting lists!
  • That shortage actually led some stores to buy back the dolls from customers for $40 and sell them again for $60!
  • The population of Cabbage Patch Kids reached an estimated 75 million by 1989.  The United States population did not pass that number until 1900!
28 Comments leave one →
  1. meg permalink
    July 26, 2011 7:12 pm

    Funny, Angie, I wanted a baldie but ended up with red-haired Georgette Michelle. Great post, but you failed to mention – perhaps with very good reason – the two bizarre spin-offs of the original CPK’s: the preemies and the Koosa’s (pets). In hindsight, the concept of the preemie seems sort of disturbing and insensitive. The fact that they had tiny sprouts of yarn hair atop their little bald heads is just bizarre. That said, Andrew Jeremiah, Georgette’s preterm brother sat proudly next to Tobias James. The Koosa was apparently so unremarkable that I forgot his (?) name.

    • July 26, 2011 9:19 pm

      I just laughed out loud when I read your comment, Meg! I absolutely remembered CPK Preemies but, until you mentioned it, I never thought of how disturbing that concept is. I recall even correcting people that, no, Gil Evan is not a preemie because the preemie ones have tufts of hair in the middle of their heads (WTH?). I completely forgot about the pets!

  2. July 26, 2011 8:24 pm

    All that info and you neglected to mention GARBAGE PAIL KIDS. (It’s possible I may still have your old collection, sis.) Maybe that’s another post.

    • July 26, 2011 9:22 pm

      Ah, yes, the Garbage Pail Kids. I’d liken them to Xavier Roberts’ illegitimate children. They were pretty raw, I’d say. Pretty icky stuff on some.

  3. Jen permalink
    July 26, 2011 8:53 pm

    Angie once again you had me laughing out loud – I’m still traumatized by that Christmas when I got a bike & my sister got a CPK. Molly Loretta. WTF. Apparently Santa reasoned that I’d be able to handle the trauma better than my sister & plus my bday was in January so maybe they’d find another by then. To this day I am dismayed by this injustice :) Guess I should be glad it was a whole bike & not just a basket though lol

    • July 26, 2011 9:24 pm

      Yes, I think Santa was much nicer to you than me. Although, what a horrible injustice indeed! I cannot believe you are not in counseling over this. Do you actually remember your sister’s doll’s name? Impressive!

  4. July 27, 2011 5:05 pm

    Ahhhh yes…I remember it well…Laurie’s Cabbage Patch doll came from Boston… yes Masssachusetts!! Parents were madly communicating in person and by phone about where we could possible get the “Cabbage Patch” kids…in order to make our children no cry on Christmas day! One of my friends, a Xfer from Boston, was going back to see family and promised that she could find them there…bless her soul! And indeed she came through! This was such a good memory of the things we went through for our children, Angie….thanks for the memories…keep writing…love it. Aunt D

  5. Erin permalink
    July 28, 2011 1:25 pm

    I will never forget how bad I wanted a Cabbage Patch Doll for Christmas. And since I was the youngest of 5 and no longer believed in Santa, my mom had no problem telling me that I wasn’t getting one for Christmas. “They are way too hard to find and way too much money to spend on a doll.” (I wonder if my mom would faint if I told her about American Girl Dolls today.) My mom coached me and my sister on saving our Christmas money and our birthday money since we both have February birthdays and we could buy our very own Cabbage Patch Dolls. So, that we did. We saved all of our money. I’m wondering now how much money my grandparents actually gave us that I had to save through 2 holidays to get enough money.
    Finally we got word that Bradley’s was going to have the dolls. It was still February, right after our birthdays, so it was bitter cold outside. My mom woke me and my sister up before the crack of dawn to go wait in line for our dolls. We brought blankets and my mom had hot chocolate ready in thermoses. We waited outside in line for hours as they let each family in one by one ahead of us. One doll per person was all they would allow. My sister and I joked in line about how there were only going to be ugly ones left when we got there.
    Finally – we were next – it was our turn to be let into the store! Instead of the manager coming to tell us that it was our turn, he came out to announce that all of the Cabbage Patch Dolls were gone.
    I cried. My sister cried. And, yes, my mom cried too. Everyone was devastated even my aunt volunteered to make homemade ones for us. Eventually we got our beloved CPB kids without waiting in line at 5:00 am and could put aside the ones our aunt made for us. My first one was a bald premie and the mysecond was a premie with the patch of hair on top. Can’t rememeber either of their names. I, too, bought one for my daughter and she could care less about her :(

    • July 28, 2011 3:34 pm

      Erin, what a cruel thing for a child to have to learn this way that life isn’t fair! I would’ve been crying if I were your mom, too! And the fact that you both saved your own money to buy one. Those other punks in line surely did not :( Okay, now I’m going to go have a cry for little Erin circa 1983.

  6. Punky Brewster~ aka Jaclyn permalink
    August 11, 2011 3:17 pm

    I still have my Cabbage Patch dolls all boxed up- I gave Erik one to pretend to play big brother with before Mark was born, Erik named him “baby Erik.” I totally remember waiting and waiting and waiting for my first CPK- I got her on Christmas Eve in 1984, she smelled like chocolate.

    • August 11, 2011 5:20 pm

      The people who have theirs still and even back in the box…wow, those are the real collectors. I had no idea you were the type, Punky. :) PS “Smells like chocolate” – love it!

  7. Punky Brewster~ aka Jaclyn permalink
    August 11, 2011 3:18 pm

    PS- I totally remember the ‘run’ on CPK dolls- madness I tell you!

  8. Punky Brewster~ aka Jaclyn permalink
    August 11, 2011 8:04 pm

    I meant in a plastic box- they are suffocating together with a dusty lid. :)

    • August 11, 2011 8:37 pm

      Eek! Poor things! Though you are a little less cat-lady-crazy to me now :)

  9. December 19, 2011 12:03 pm

    Okay, this is probably going to break your heart, but it’s true:

    I was born and raised in Germany, but had / have family in the US

    In 1985 or 1986 (not sure which year) one of my relatives (most likely my aunt) sent me a Cabbage Patch Doll for my birthday in october

    Nobody in Germany knew about cabbage patch dolls and no one really cared – so it wasn’t a cool gift at all

    All I remember about it was that it was a girl with blond hair

    I don’t think I ever even opened the box… I believe it just ended up on the back of a shelf somewhere…

    I would have happily traded it for some unicorn stickers, if I would have known you back then ;)

    • December 19, 2011 5:13 pm

      Oh, no! That is awful! I think I would’ve given my entire sticker book collection for your poor neglected Cabbage Patch Kid. Although, I don’t know what’s more tragic. Now all four of mine lay in my parents’ family room toy box, and my kids use them as billy clubs.

  10. January 16, 2012 1:45 pm

    My daughter had ‘Christina’ and my son had a baldie–‘Louis’. I wonder if they still have them… such a funny post. Along the same lines—‘Care Bears’, do you remember them? I fought a crowd of mothers at TARGET for ‘Birthday Bear’ for my daughter’s birthday. Now, I noticed my grandaughter has Strawberry Shortcake… another toy we won’t soon forget.

    • January 16, 2012 2:21 pm

      Yes – Care Bears were the bomb! I had Bedtime Bear. Wow, you were a trooper to come through for your daughter on that one. Strawberry Shortcake was my life for most of the early 80s.

  11. russelllindsey permalink
    January 17, 2012 9:45 pm

    It is sad that today’s kids do not understand the whole Cabbage Patch Kid thing. My first one is safely tucked away. My Grandma gave me my first one, although I’m not sure how she got them.

    By the way, why hate on the preemies? I LOVED them … although I have to admit that some were creepier than others.

    They did have a CPK record out there at one time. I had it and left it in my 1st grade classroom for prosperity.

    Lindsey

    • January 17, 2012 10:48 pm

      Yes, I linked the album cover in this post. I never had it but I’m sure I wanted it.

      I think the issue with CPK preemies is the idea of having dolls modeled after babies who are born premature — a very bizarre concept. I can’t imagine how that idea was ever pitched to Coleco. I guess it was a risk that paid off for them though.

  12. June 22, 2012 8:07 am

    I’m catching up on all your posts and this one struck a chord with me. I had a baldie too. His name was Clyde, and he became my favorite. I remember when my grown up neighbor bought one for his mother for Christmas. He hid it in the spare bathroom shower (kind of creepy now that I think about it). I went to check it out and was like, “Why does a grown woman need a cabbage patch kid when this thing would CHANGE MY LIFE?!?” I spent my waking hours scheming how to break into his house and rescue my future child. As a last resort I was really, really nice to the neighbor in hopes he would just hand it over due to my good manners and affable personality. I sincerely love your blog. So many memories…

    • July 24, 2012 7:26 pm

      I read (and choked on) this when you posted it back in June — sorry for the belated reply. Seriously, seriously creeped out that your neighbor bought one for his mother and showed it to you in the spare bathroom shower. That’s a haunting shower scene that might’ve topped Psycho.

  13. July 24, 2012 7:42 pm

    Wow, did this post bring back memories! I remember the Cabbage Patch Kids craze too. I got my first doll from my day care center – I have no idea how or why they got them. You just took what you got. I got an ugly boy doll with spiky grayish hair named Irv Kirk. He became part of the family. Everyone said, “Oh, look, it’s good ol’ Irv, lying naked in the living room floor” etc. The next Christmas I got a blond girl with no shoes – the shoes had been stolen from the box. Still a great find at the time. I ended up with 13 of the stupid things. I made my own creepy classroom.

  14. Kim permalink
    July 28, 2014 9:55 pm

    I still have all my cabbage patch kids. Not in the boxes, though. Mine are Nicolina Franny, Mitchell Selby, Yves Francis, Kirsten Pansy and Elizabeth Marie. I received my last one a few years ago because my sister found one with my birthday. They now sit on my shelves with my American Girls and Winnie the Poohs. My sister loved Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake. Great stuff :-)

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